The number one thing I love to do in my free time is brainstorm new business ideas. I find it fun thinking about problems and solutions in the form of innovative, unique, and interesting side hustles. My friends know this about me and at some point, at every dinner or phone call, I ask them if they want to chat about random ideas and see if any of them have potential for success.
While coming up with a long list of business ideas is easy, spending the quality time to check and see if these ideas can actually turn into something requires a series of practical steps.
If you’re collecting business ideas wondering which could turn into long term success and which are doomed for quick failure, here are six ways you can put your idea to the test before investing money into getting a business up and running.
1. Get the idea in front of an audience
Side hustles are created for people to help solve a problem they have in their life. Even if you think your idea is brilliant, it can’t be validated until it’s in front of a group of people, who are your ideal target audience, to see what their response is.
For example, if you’re thinking of starting a career coaching service for women in their 30s who want to make a career transition to another industry, find 10 to 15 people who meet this criteria and spend 30 minutes to an hour understanding their perspective, what kind of coaching they’d like, and how they feel about your idea.
If you are thinking of creating a modern stress ball for those who work in high-energy and fast-paced careers, first spend time chatting with this audience to see if this is something they’d use and then create a test product for them to try out before you build the real thing.
This data will help you pivot or change the purpose of your business. The more you can understand what your audience needs from you, the more you can build something of long-lasting value.
2. Have a pulse on industry trends
It’s common for entrepreneurs to start side hustles in industries they aren’t too familiar with. Sometimes being new can allow you to see what problems no other company has ever tried to solve. Spend time keeping a pulse on trends, projections, and innovations happening within a certain space.
An easy way to help you do this is by setting free Google alerts for topics and keywords within an industry so that you can review daily updates about what’s happening. You can also read industry blogs, listen to podcasts, and attend conferences, all before actually starting and launching your product or service.
What you learn will help you brainstorm ways to make your side hustle stand out and be practical to the ever-changing needs of your customer base.
3. Understand your competitors
Before getting too deep into planning your idea, look into better understanding your competitors. Map out their business plan, identify what they’ve done in the past that’s worked well for them and what has failed, and see what opportunities they haven’t even tried yet.
Once you know the performance of at least three to five competitors, you can really understand how your side hustle can fit into the overall landscape of the industry and potentially service customers in a new or different way.
Look into the marketing of these companies (check out their website and sign up for their emails) and use analysis tools like Rival IQ for help on how your competitors are performing on social media platforms.
4. Eyeball your business plan
A great step to take to really see if an idea has what it takes to grow into a success business is to write out a full and formal plan. Once you can identify how the business will grow and scale, what kind of budget you’ll need, and what the overall solutions are to the problems you’re solving for your audience, you’ll be able to have a blueprint for next steps.
Print out a free business plan like this one and see how much of it you can fill out. Over time, consult with mentors and other experts in your industry to expand on your business plan and see if your idea has legs or is just a decent idea.
5. Chat with a handful of mentors
Side hustle ideas should be shared. The more people with business and industry knowledge you share your ideas, the more you can refine your purpose and product based on their expertise.
Join communities where these experts might be (Facebook groups or conferences) and ask if they will meet with you for 15 to 20 minutes, and come prepared with questions catered to their insights and experience.
6. Be willing to pivot, pause, and plan
A lot of successful businesses started out as something completely different than what they are now. Take Amazon, for example, which started off as an online book seller and has now turned into a platform for buying everything you could possibly need and getting it sent to your doorstep quickly.
If you notice you’re hanging onto an idea that’s not getting a good response from your target audience or industry experts, understand that if you don’t pause, pivot, and re-plan, you might not find the success you’re looking for.
Be willing, as a new entrepreneur, to bend your idea from its original state. Following these steps will help you get clarity on whether or not an idea is worth pursuing.
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